Pair of Qing crocus vases – £4200 at Dreweatts.

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A private collection of silver assembled more than a century ago was the major strength of a two-day sale at Dreweatts (25% buyers’ premium) on March 8-9 (as covered in ATG No 2536).

But sought after too were the lots from Victoria Lady de Rothschild – the second of financier Sir Evelyn de Rothschild’s three wives. Her ceramics, timepieces and jewellery brought some unexpectedly high bids.

Christie’s had first dibs on this collection, selling 175 lots in a December online sale for £3.7m.

Qing vases

The Donnington Priory offering was, nonetheless, considerably more than crumbs from a rich lady’s table. And Victoria kept a very stylish table indeed.

The most remarkable element of this collection was the huge volume of Qing blue and white tulip or crocus vases. Modelled like five adjoining Chinese baluster vases with a central ‘garlic head’ stem, these were typically made for the Dutch market for the display of flowers. They are not uncommon at auction but here there were close to 40 of them offered in 22 lots.

It provided an opportunity to see the many subtle variations on a theme, although prices were pretty standard at around £3000 a pair against low-ball estimates of £200-300. The top-seller was 10in (25.5cm) tall: a pair painted with dragons chasing flaming pearls sold at £4200. Against some Chinese interest all went to UK collectors at a hammer total of £71,400.

Less dramatic but also demolishing the estimate was a European offering: a composite Chantilly porcelain part-dinner service of about 180 pieces from c.1775-1800. All painted in blue and white with scattered floral sprays, they had signs of wear but, against a £3000-5000 estimate, made £13,000 from an online buyer.

Coral in demand


Four-string coral necklace – £28,000 at Dreweatts.

Outshining them all, however, was a red coral necklace, comprising four rows of graduated beads ranging from 0.5-2cm and weighing 670 grams. Pitched at £800-1200, it sold at £28,000.

Coral has been a favourite among Asian buyers for some time and cherry red is regarded as a particularly auspicious colour. Bidding came from south Asia and the Middle East.


Henning Koppel for Georg Jensen pitcher – £10,000 at Dreweatts.

Most of Lady de Rothschild’s European silver was modern, including a sterling standard pitcher to the classic model 978 design by Henning Koppel for Georg Jensen. Designed in 1948 but date coded for 2006, it doubled top expectations in going to a Continental buyer at £10,000.

“The estimates were conservative, based on similar recent selling prices, but it was also difficult to price some of the pieces as they had no previous auction records”, said Dreweatts deputy chairman James Nicholson.

Sixty hammered silver finger bowls, beakers and tumblers by the London and international jeweller William Welstead were offered in 10 lots with a total high estimate of £3700. Doubtless the de Rothschild cachet encouraged buyers.

Variously dated from 2004-07, they went to UK and US private bidders, often leaving the trade as underbidders. They totalled £15,300, led by a group of nine finger bowls at £3500. Nine Italian thumbprint salt cellars by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany similarly demolished the estimate, selling at £2600.